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“Time out!” I shout, lowering my hammer to my side and dropping my stance. I couldn’t have timed my shout any better because Tabitha’s sword pauses right against the surface of my chest piece.

 

“During a battle, there are no 'time outs,' as you call it," Tabitha frowns in annoyance.

 

"I'll keep that in mind when I'm in a real battle," I tiredly reply, letting myself fall backward onto my butt. Mana Skin absorbs almost all of the impact, but even if my skill wasn't activated, my stats are high enough I wouldn't feel much from the slight drop, even with my armor and weapon weighing me down.

 

"We should continue; you're stunting your growth, stopping like this," Tabitha motions for me to get up.

 

"Give me a few minutes, and I will." Tabitha and I lock eyes with one another. A silent battle of wills takes place between us, and I make sure not to back down.

 

“Fine,” Tabitha finally huffs, sheathing her sword. “You have five minutes.”

 

"Ten," I immediately counter, using my merchant skills for good measure.

 

Tabitha's face contorts, feeling the effect of my negotiating skills, but instead of agreeing to my terms, she walks away before she's forced to agree with me and seal the deal verbally. If I'm lucky, that will buy me eight minutes.

 

My lips curl up into a smile as I watch Tabitha head over to a particular bolder that she favors as a chair during my little breaks. Though she looks angry, I know Tabitha won’t hold this against me.

 

We’ve been sparring for a while now, and I only recently realized I could get Tabitha to pause our sessions as I did. Tabitha may seem like a rabid animal when we fight, but I’ve come to learn she has strict standards that she always follows. A fine example of this is how she stopped her attack as soon as I dropped all pretense of defending myself and called for a time out.

 

If I lose focus during our bout, she has no qualms of dicing up my armor like a butcher does a dead animal. But if I give up entirely, Tabitha won't strike me, even if her blade is just about to touch me. She refuses to attack someone who won’t defend themselves.

 

Now I briefly thought about using this bit of knowledge to get one over on Tabitha, but we both know that trick will only work once. And once I take advantage of that tactic, she’ll never let me rest again. And Aaliyah needs her breaks.

 

It’s been almost three weeks since Tabitha upped the difficulty of my training, and though I know I'm improving, it feels like I've started to stagnate a bit. Sure, I score a hit on Tabitha every so often, but not as regularly as I would like to. I think she may be scaling her training to my rate of improvement, but if I ask Tabitha and she denies it, then that means I am stagnating. And if that's true, it will be all that more disappointing since everything else in my life has been going swimmingly.

 

From working on my enchanting with Sandra to crafting the dellinium arrows for Kervin when he arrives in a few days, I've felt unstoppable the last two weeks. It started with that little scare about not having the suitable types of engraving ink, only for Sandra and I to find out we didn't have that much to worry about.

 

The day after I finished the rough work on the arrow shafts, I finally tried enchanting something I didn't want to disintegrate in my hands. Sandra was so excited it felt like she was levitating over my shoulder the entire time. If I didn't have more Strength than her, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to get her off me. Of course, I was gentile while having her give me some space to work, let alone hurting my best friend; I would sooner kill myself than harm my unborn niece or nephew.

 

Sandra was still quite adamant in wanting to watch me closely, and I guess I should count myself lucky I was at least given enough elbow room to draw out the runes.

 

I remember the both of us let out a collective sigh of relief when I successfully enchanted and activated that first dagger. Our first test wasn’t astounding by any means, but it was an important milestone all the same. I grabbed a half-formed knife out of Master’s scrap bin and copied the simple sharpening enchantment on it, slightly tweaking the design, so the mana absorbing rune is on the handle.

 

The enchantment worked as it was supposed to and gave a slight cutting edge to the dull piece of steel that otherwise might have had trouble cutting a stick of butter. After that initial success, we took a step back and thought about where we should go from there.

 

Sandra suggested that though the enchantment was working now, we should test to see if keeping it activated for extended periods might affect the rune work in the long run. While I proceeded with our next test, Sandra supplied a steady stream of mana to the newly enchanted knife to see if we declared our success a little too early. But to my knowledge, Sandra is still regularly activating the dagger, and it hasn't broken, so I don't think we have much to fear in that regard.

 

Sandra and I spent some time bouncing a few ideas off of one another, and we eventually decided we needed to test to see if our engraving ink could work with runes that were obviously not of the earth element.

 

Once again, I fished some scrap steel out of the dud pile that resembled an abstract wand and enchanted it to produce a ball of light out of its tip. After finishing and five minutes of pretending to be in the Harry Potter universe, I was willing to call my work a success.

 

I had to grab Master’s mining helmet to compare the two light spells, but they were almost identical. Master’s helmet was more mana efficient than my light wand, but only by about 4%, and that could stem from any number of discrepancies.

 

I was willing to accept my results as irrefutable proof that our engraving ink was fine to work with; however, I wasn't the only one who needed convincing. Sandra suggested we try one more experiment, sighting how light magic is closest to fire magic and how our engraving ink might not match up to it perfectly; earth mana isn't exactly fire's opposite.

 

Being a good friend, I agreed to do another experiment to placate Sandra’s worries. It also helped that all these different experiments were getting me a lot more comfortable carving the different runes. I even got a handful of experience points for each successful enchantment.

 

Sandra recommended I try enchanting something with a wind attribute rune; sadly, I didn’t have anything like that in my small repertoire. Enchantments are meant to empower everyday items, and few of them demand a need for a stronger breeze or whatever wind elemental runes do. However, there’s always a plan B.

 

I suggested I try replicating the water purifier I bought from Kervin. The enchantment might not be geared towards wind mana, but it should've at least shown us some tiny flaws with using the wrong ink, which it ended up doing. Though, crafting the structure for the rune was a lot more complicated than I expected.

 

First, I quickly crafted a rough replica of the water purify that did not go as planned. My runes must have been bad, seeing how I was working on multiple surfaces. That's how we saw the destruction of an hours' worth of work, accompanied by the shrieking noise proving I failed to draw at least one or more of my runes correctly. At least I learned steel disintegrates like wood when the enchantment fails; you always learn something from your mistakes and all that.

 

My second attempt saw me dumbing down the design thanks to some ideas from Sandra. Instead of recreating the water purifier's shape, my second attempt had me making an open box with a small hole at the bottom. Simply put, you fill the metal container with water, add mana, and your water is cleaned as it trickles through the small opening.

 

I took my time carving the runes again, and after another hour of hard work, I had the ugliest magic tool in the history of the world. I don’t think Kervin would even buy it, and he buys everything I make.

 

Looks aside, the water purifying box did show us that clashing engraving ink does put unnecessary stress on the enchantment. I had to use a noticeable amount of extra mana to get the enchantment to function correctly, and I had to pause a few times to essentially keep the enchantment from overheating from the mana I was sending through it.

 

It was a bit of a bummer knowing we would have to be careful with what runes we work with going forward, at least until we figure out how to adjust our engraving ink recipe, but I wasn't going to let that get me down. I still ended up proving our ink can work for most of the enchantments I've deciphered, and that's a good enough place to start.

 

I was happy with the results, but Sandra took longer to see the bright side of things.

 

Looking back, I was riding the highs of success, while Sandra was forced to stand off to the side, watching me do everything. That's probably why she was so critical of everything. It’s never fun to be told you can’t play with something new, especially when it’s dangled right in front of you.

 

Sandra has devoted her life to three things, magic, family, and my brother; I try not to grimace at that last part. Ever since I first met her, Sandra's passion for magic was plain for anyone to see, and I wholeheartedly believe that if Brother didn't want to go to Drey with her, Sandra would've left him behind at that point in their relationship.

 

So, for Sandra to be reduced to a spectator while I was having fun experimenting with a new form of magic must be incredibly frustrating for her.

 

Why can I only seem to have these breakthroughs after the situation? Casting a glance up to the ridge of the quarry, I let out a sigh seeing the lack of a few familiar figures. It’s no wonder Sandra cut back some of the time she was spending with me. When she told me she wanted to do some extra magic practice, I took Sandra's words at face value, never considering how frustrated she might be. Knowing her, Sandra's probably home right now trying to unlock Inject Mana, so she doesn't have to wait for Kervin to arrive. But at least I was able to give her some good news about getting ahold of a mana gem.

 

A couple of days ago after I spent most of the day experimenting with Sandra, I took a trip into the woods and got a hold of Giovanni. The first half of our conversation was much like my previous talks with the man, mostly business and whatnot. But because my day ended early on account of using up my allocated mana during the enchanting experiments, I wasn’t in a rush to get home like I usually am when I contact him.

 

I, of course, had budgeted out enough mana to keep Mana skin activated for my little trek, plus a little extra to power the communication device, all while not falling below my safety threshold. Neither task cost me much mana, giving me a rare chance to have an actual conversation with the head of Silver Herd.

 

After I asked Giovanni for the supplies Master needed to craft Sandra an engraving pen, we talked about what was happening outside the village. Living in such a remote place, you can sometimes forget there's a whole world out there, and apparently, a lot has happened since I was last in Drey, like the war that's currently at a stalemate.

 

Pacore had only ever sent a single update to Tabitha, and that was a while ago back when he took the Earl’s fort. While I’ve been practicing my skills and training with Tabitha, Pacore has been defending his newly concurred lands from an army anxious to retake what was lost. Olebert's second army had made its way around Red Dust Mountain, hoping to bolster the defenses of Yleles only to arrive to a city already under Pacore's control.

 

Giovanni said Olebert's army would've never made it in time; they arrived three days after Pacore had taken the city, and by that point, he had already dug himself in like a tick. And from what Giovanni told me, Pacore is apparently better at defending than he is at attacking, though I’m sure he prefers the latter over the former.

 

With General Pitz and her other high-leveled subordinates still held captive by Scholl, the recently arrived army was left with few options. The only thing the Olebert general leading the forces could do was set up a makeshift camp outside of Yleles to make sure Pacore's conquest stops where it was. Giovanni said a few brief scuffles broke out between the two forces, but word has spread that Pacore has yet to lose a single man in any of the altercations.

 

With an army outside Yleles and an even greater force stationed around Teeburn, our little corner of the world has officially been sealed off from our once rulers.

 

To me, it sounds like it's only a matter of time until Olebert is forced to turn over these lands to Scholl publicly. That, or Olebert forsakes General Pitz and moves to retake their lands, which doesn't sound like it will happen any time soon. You could almost say the fighting has essentially stopped with both sides waiting to see what the other does before committing to doing anything further.

 

That’s good news for everyone afraid of the fighting spreading across the lands, but the ceasefire and barricade are still causing some significant problems for everyone, especially Giovanni. Silver Herd is a merchant company and depends on the movement of goods to make its money, and a trade embargo doesn’t help with that.

 

Sure, Giovanni is working with Pacore to ship food to Fort North Ridge, where it's passed on to caravans heading into Scholl. Still, most, if not all, of the specialty goods Silver Herd sold came from Giovanni's contacts deeper in Olebert. With both routes cut off and all trade between forces seen as a traitorous offense, Giovanni is forced to rely on smugglers to get the goods that he needs.

 

When I asked him to find me a neutral or air elemental magic gem, thinking he should still have a few on hand, he regretfully told me his stock was entirely out. As soon as people fully realized the implications of being cut off from Olebert, those who could afford it bought everything they could. Metals, magic gems, magicite, types of yarn, and anything that our region doesn't produce itself were bought up over a period of three days.

 

Thankfully, kaglese ore wasn’t high on people’s priority list due to its difficulty to smelt, so Giovanni was able to set the rest of his stock aside for me along with a bit of mithril. However, the same couldn’t be said about the magic gem. Giovanni promised me he would get me the magic gem Sandra needed, but he would need to go through his darker channels to do so. That means Sandra will get her magic gem but at a substantial mark up.

 

Giovanni warned me that even if Kervin sells the gem to Sandra or me at cost, we would need to be prepared to spend multiple gold coins, even for a small specimen.

 

I complained, but Giovanni took the time to explain to me how rapidly the prices for gems and ores are on the rise. Our little corner of the world was once known for its iron mines in Red Dust Mountain, but since those dried up, we’ve been forced to import iron from other areas, areas past the blockade. There are a few small mines here and there like the one Master has dug out, but nothing on a grand scale like there once was.

 

The price for iron and steel has essentially tripled and has probably risen even higher since I last spoke with Giovanni. I was practically begged to sell as many ingots as I could spare when Kervin arrives in a few days. It took me all of a second to agree with the prices Giovanni was throwing at me. I can still remember Giovanni’s ecstatic voice when I mentioned I might be able to part with some magicite as well.

 

Giovanni said he would send extra gold with Kervin along with an additional bodyguard for good measure.

 

I asked if all this inflation means I'll get more for the weapons I've already completed, to which Giovanni said yes and no. I will be paid 80% of the original market value instead of the quoted 70%, but unfortunately, Giovanni couldn't guarantee me any more than that.

 

I was about to threaten to sell to somebody else, but anticipating my reaction, Giovanni quickly told me how he's already sold the weapons to my new Master, as Tabitha predicted. Now, I could've been an asshole and demanded more money and likely would've gotten it too, but it would've put a considerable strain on my relationship with Silver Herd, a relationship I want to keep amicable.

 

I know Giovanni wants to maintain a good relationship with me in hopes of expanding his business to Scholl, and I want someone reliable to keep an eye on the village after I leave. It would be stupid for either of us to throw that all away over some short-term gains. Rightfully I wanted to tell Giovanni it was okay, but I had to wait for him to finish overly apologizing for the situation like any good merchant trying to maintain their contact would.

 

Even without getting more for my weapons, I’ll still make some good money when I sell the extra steel and magicite to Kervin. I asked Master to help me, and while I’ve been working on finishing up my arrows, Master has been working the smelter for the last week and a half. Even right now, instead of watching me practice with Tabitha, Master is down in the mine getting more magicite and iron ore.

 

I can't wait to see the look on Kervin's face when he sees the couple hundred ingots we have prepared for him. Our stuff is quality steel, too, not like most of the impure stuff I saw in Grey's office. I'm so happy he's dead.

 

That was another critical thing Giovanni told me about. Apparently, he sent Reel and another one of his agents to track down Grey, and the two assassins found what remained of his body in a goblin camp in the middle of the mountains. The bones were picked clean, they were only able to confirm the body was Grey after they found the shredded remains of his cloak. The fabric perfectly matched what Grey was spotted wearing by the gate guards the day he fled the city.

 

Sandra's skepticism must have rubbed off on me because I felt the need to question if Giovanni was sure the remains were indeed Grey. I was then told Reel and his partner scoured the area and even found where Grey was ambushed. All signs pointed to two people traveling together up until that point before the trail reduced to only a single set of tracks.

 

In theory, it could've been an elaborate hoax set up by Grey, but based on how Reel couldn't find any of the valuables Grey had stolen, it only makes sense Grey died, and Max took everything with him. If Max had died and Grey survived, Reel and his partner would've caught up to him by now.

 

Giovanni said his men searched the area for any traces of Max, but he was long gone by the time they located where Grey fell to the goblins. Silver Herd is keeping an eye on the path Grey and Max took into the mountains should Max try to return, but Giovanni said he wasn't holding his breath. He believes there has to be some hidden route through the mountain; that's the only reason Giovanni could see Grey trying to flee that way. Giovanni sounded adamant about eventually uncovering the route, but sadly he was too busy at the moment re-establishing his hold on the surrounding cities to justify dedicating his men to the project.

 

"Man, Giovanni sure was chatty," I remark to myself as I stretch out my limbs, shaking away the dull pain from my previous sparring session. "Three or so minutes until Tabitha walks back over, ready to continue our sparring session."

 

I get up and move over to the spot I have my waterskin stashed. Can’t forget to hydrate, I chuckle to myself. My body has gotten to the point where I can go quite a while without needing water, sure it would affect my performance, but it isn’t a medical concern like it would be back on Earth.

 

Back on Earth, if I pushed my old body a fraction of what I do against Tabitha, I would sweat enough to fill up a bathtub. Wiping at my forehead, I smear the few drops of sweat across my skin. I'll work up a good sheen by the end of the day, but nothing that would make someone suspect I'd been sparring all day.

 

A few weeks ago, I sweated more during our fights, but I think my body is getting used to this new level of activity much like it has when I’m blacksmithing.

 

I don't sweat that much; I only eat once a day and rarely use the bathroom. I doubt I'd be called human anymore back on Earth, which is fine. Knowledge from my time on Earth is valuable, but I can't let myself be bogged down by the standards of a world I’m no longer a part of.

 

I'm strong, but there are stronger people in this world.

 

Stronger everything.

 

I pull up my status page to see my growth over the last few weeks.

 

LV: 74 Experience: 189,317/ 1,004,619

Health: 2,288.62/2,450

Stamina 1,489.77/1,666

Mana: 808.34/1,030

Vitality: 245.02

Endurance: 100.12

Strength: 155.04

Dexterity: 155.08

Senses: 62.52

Mind: 65.39

Magic: 103.11

Clarity: 79.07

Status Points: 0

Skills:

Tier 1:

Meditation (LV79), Running (LV78), Blacksmithing (LV74), Hammer Skills (LV66), Axe Skills (LV60), Cleaning (LV53), Chanting (LV50), Mining (LV50), Drawing (LV47), Trading (LV45), Cooking (LV41), Sword Skills (LV40), Dagger Skills (LV34), Acting (LV33), Wood Carving (LV31), Sewing (LV31), Dancing (LV19), Alchemy (LV15), Pugilist Skills (LV8), Spear Skills (LV2)

Tier 2:

Sense Mana (LV79), Double Step (LV64), Charm (LV50), Measurement (LV47), Hammer Arts (LV46), Axe Arts (LV39), Writing (LV32), Intimidating Shout (LV31), Mathematics (LV31), Steady Hands (LV29), Increase Price (LV21), Lower Price (LV20), Sword Arts (LV17), Dagger Arts (LV13), Gourmet (LV7), Marching (LV5), Shout of Valor (LV3),

Tier 3:

Expel Mana (LV63), Mana Manipulation (LV63), Weighted Strike (LV42), Precise Strike (LV41), Double Strike (LV40), Flash Step (LV31), Contract (LV21), Enchanting (LV6)

Tier 4:

Mental Resistance (LV59), Mana Skin (LV57), Inject Mana (LV54), Extract Mana (LV37), Magic Blacksmithing (LV33), Magic Threads (LV19), Air Walk (LV18), Empowered Spell (LV14), Ironclad Agreement (LV8), Appealing Deal (LV3)

Tier 5:

Sense Soul (LV40), Soul Manipulation (LV16)

Tier 6:

Soul Devourer (LV4)

 

Increased Skill Levels

Blacksmithing (LV74) 3,700exp

Hammer Skills (LV64-66) 9,750exp

Drawing (LV47) 2,350exp

Alchemy (LV15) 750exp

Dancing (LV14-19) 4,950exp

Hammer Arts (LV45-46) 9,100exp

Steady Hands (LV27-29) 8,400exp

Mana Manipulation (LV63) 9,450exp

Weighted Strike (LV42) 6,300exp

Precise Strike (LV41) 6,150exp

Flash Step (LV30-31) 9,150exp

Enchanting (LV1-6) 3,150exp

Mana Skin (LV57) 14,250exp

Extract Mana (LV37) 9,250exp

Magic Blacksmithing (LV32-33) 16,250exp

Air Walk (LV16-18) 12,750exp

Magic Threads (LV16-19) 17,500exp

 

Skill Experience: 143,200exp

Crafting Experience: 9,071exp

Fighting Experience: 2,816exp

 

Total-experience Gained: 154,087exp

 

"Solid growth across the board," I smile to myself. Working hard every day and getting beaten up by Tabitha has its benefits.

 

Thanks to all my sparring and working on the arrows, Hammer Skills leveled up three times. Now I’ll only need nine more levels in the skill until Tabitha lets me pick up another weapon again. However, I am getting quite used to only using my war hammer. Using Magic Threads, I anchor myself to the quarry floor and twirl my hammer around.

 

Satisfied with my weapon control, I decide to put it away for a few minutes until Tabitha approaches me again. Angling the hammer's head over my shoulder, I slowly release my grip, letting my hammer slid down the back of my armor. When the hammer’s head reaches the top of my ass crack, I tighten my grip and keep the hammer from slipping any lower. With my weapon in place, I weave magic threads around my weapon and secure it to my armor.

 

I came up with this nifty trick last week, and now I can keep my hammer with me while freeing up my hands when I need to; plus, there's no sheaths or any awkward straps in my way. It takes a bit of mana to thoroughly secure my weapon this way, but maintaining it isn’t that intensive, and I can just reabsorb most of my mana when I need to wield it again.

 

When Sandra saw me use this technique for the first time, she was excited to see me use raw mana in such a way while Tabitha just stared at me with a blank face and said, 'interesting.' I can use this technique with other items too.

 

If I want to look intimidating, I could place a bunch of daggers all over my armor. Nothing says 'don't fuck with me' than a bunch of daggers everywhere. I smile at the absurdity of the idea, I’m not like Reel and trained with daggers in that way, and I would probably just drop them everywhere by accident.

 

Magic Threads and Hammer Skills aren't the only skills that saw a sizable improvement. A few days ago, while I was putting the various arrow pieces together, Precise Strike finally passed its bottleneck at level 40, and that's not all, Blacksmithing reached level 74, and I can feel that it's close to reaching level 75.

 

I'm sure my skill will level again after I finish the arrows tomorrow. I've been putting a lot of effort into my crafting, and since I haven't considered them complete yet, I haven't received any experience for what I've done. All the crafting experience I've earned has been from practicing engraving and helping my mom fix my armor on a regular basis.

 

But if the experience from the last time I made a dellinium arrow is anything to go off of, I expect to see a lot of experience for my troubles. When I made that first arrow, I had to ask Master for quite a bit of help. In fact, if memory serves, he's the one who actually had to shape the arrowheads because I couldn't work the dellinium with my Strength stat at the time.

 

It's a good thing I've grown a lot since then; if I didn't gain so many levels from killing the soul eater, I would've had to ask for Master's help again.

 

It took a lot of effort, but my Strength was just high enough for me to shape the arrowheads. I had to use my skills with every other swing, but that got the job done. The arrows are 95% completed, and tomorrow I'll be spending the whole day doing nothing but going over every millimeter of the arrows working out any flaws no matter how small they are.

 

I’m pretty sure Pacore is buying the arrows along with my weapons, but I have no idea where they’re going from there. I just hope whoever ends up getting them appreciates my work.

 

I briefly considered trying to enchant the arrows but quickly dismissed the idea. I'm still a beginner when it comes to enchanting, and the number of runes at my disposal is too limiting. I'd undoubtedly just end up lowering the value of the arrows rather than increasing them.

 

I hear the shuffling of armor, and when I turn my head, I see Tabitha walking over to me with a happy expression. Almost nine minutes, longer than I expected. “Ready to go again?” She asks with a smile that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

 

“Sure am,” I feign confidence, grabbing my hammer’s handle and reabsorbing my Magic Threads. Taking up my stance, I brandish my war hammer, squashing any feelings of doubt or fear. You don’t let your emotions dictate how you fight. You give your all, that’s it.

 

With a gracefulness hard to describe, Tabitha unsheathes her sword and brandishes her shield in a single motion. There are no verbal or bodily cues for us to start fighting; we both simply move at the same time.

 

Tabitha starts with an overhead slash while I swing my hammer at her ignoring her rapidly approaching blade.

 

Tabitha raises her shield to guard herself, and I feel the reverberations of the strike through my arms as my hammer connects with her shield. She tries to fully deflect my attack, but I'm not the same person I was a month ago. As Tabitha adjusts her shield to try and make my hammer slide off it, I do the same and make sure my hammer stays connected with her shield, so she feels at least some of the weight of my attack. I don't send Tabitha flying, but I do get her to take two steps back, and with the new distance between us, I dance out of the way of her sword.

 

Stepping forward, I do what I was too afraid to do during my earlier sparring sessions; I press the attack.

 

My style of fighting has evolved as my skills have grown. I use a heavy weapon, and though I can move relatively freely thanks to my Dexterity, it's my Strength where my true advantage lies.

 

I used to think Tabitha was a berserker when I first started training with her because I wasn't used to fighting against someone at her level. But now that I can put up more of a fight, I've realized how similar her style is to Pacore. Tabitha doesn't dance out of the way exactly as the old man did, but her fighting style is still centered around countering like his is. Tabitha just uses a shield rather than relying on a freakishly high defense. I started to spot other similarities, too, like how Tabitha moves about.

 

I swing my hammer at Tabitha and watch as she twirls away from my strike with a few rapid steps. Time doesn't move in slow motion like in the movies, and I can only make out the rough steps that she takes; Tabitha almost mirrored a maneuver Pacore used when Master and I were fighting him. However, while Pacore evaded us by sheer skill, Tabitha has some speed behind her steps because she has a more even build.

 

I only have a split second to pull back my hammer before Tabitha moves in for her counterattack. She tries to throw me off guard by slamming her shield into me, but I've already anchored myself to the ground with Magic Threads and hit her shield with the butt of my hammer to reduce the force of her attack.

 

Tabitha still slams into me, but I'm able to withstand the attack. She doesn't let the failure of her first strike get to her, and Tabitha quickly switches to attacking with her sword, sending a stab at my midsection.

 

I step back with my left foot in time to dodge the brunt of her attack, but her sword's edge still leaves a cut across the front of my armor. She didn't draw blood that time, I smirk. Tabitha shares my enthusiasm as we continue to go back and forth.

 

After half an hour of attacking one another, there's no denying Tabitha is still winning. While I manage to hit her twice, for every time I scored a solid hit on her, she's cut me over a dozen times. Most of her attacks failed to make me bleed, but while my armor is partially stained red, Tabitha doesn't look injured at all from my two successful taps.

 

She hasn’t let me look closely at her armor yet, but I’m starting to think it’s enchanted to reduce blunt force damage. That, or one of Tabitha’s other magic items might explain why I can’t seem to injure her.

 

“Don’t tell me you’re going to ask for another ‘time out’ again?” Tabitha taunts when I pause for a moment.

 

“Why, do you need a break?” I spit back, dodging Tabitha’s strike. She didn’t hesitate to try and get me when she thought I was slowing down.

 

“I could keep this up all day!” Tabitha proudly proclaims.

 

I don't doubt that. Stay strong, Aaliyah, I think to myself. If you want to get over this slump and truly hit her, you need to push harder.

 

I won’t be happy until I see Tabitha grimace in pain. Who cares if she’s still going easy on me, I just need to improve until she doesn’t, then I’ll get Tabitha.

 

“Always improve,” I mutter under my breath.

 

Tabitha must have read my lips because her smile blossoms further.

 

First, let’s see if I can knock that look off her face.

 

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A note from kosnik4

5,650 words.

 

Chapter 100, 520,000 words later and here we are. It's crazy to think this story is now longer than the first four harry potter books combined.

 

If you've made it to this point, thanks for reeding.


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kosnik4

Bio: Just love a good story.

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